The New Mathematics of Making

Friday, February 17, 2017: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room 206 (Hynes Convention Center)
Jane Burry, RMIT University, Melbourne Victoria, Australia
Digital computation has freed designers from the constraints of the static 2- and 3- dimensional representational techniques of drawing and physical modelling. It has freed many to explore form and attributes in combinatorial ways, graphically, and in near real time. Moreover, design attributes can be directly linked to extraneous factors: structural or environmental optimisation, or fabrication and material constraints.

A single algebraic, algorithmic or parametric model can produce a field of different iterations. The resulting geometry, however free or complex, is already sufficiently well-defined mathematically in the computer for translation of geometry, and even material definitions, to numerical information for computer numerical controlled (CNC) fabrication machines and techniques. This automates the printing, cutting, sculpting, milling, and even assembly from physical materials.

In this session, we explore how these opportunities for automation, optimisation, variation, mass-customisation, and quality control can be fully realised in the built environment within full scale construction.

I will show select digital fabrication examples that marry research and practice, where the research and innovation has changed construction practice. The complexities of the ongoing design and construction of Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família Basilica has made it a case study for the research and early adoption of the digital in design and construction. I will also discuss contemporary multidisciplinary design research case studies that use virtual and physical prototyping to explore the opportunities, limits and ways to link digital fabrication to current and future construction and manufacturing practice. Construction presents challenges. Most buildings are unique – each is a prototype for its design and construction teams. Each is traditionally designed and built by a collection of discrete small to medium enterprises brought together temporarily in an elaborately choreographed sequence of interdependent moves.

Construction is neither science nor creative synthesis, it is business. It is a trade in risk (which is high and perceived to increase with innovation), margins, process planning, coordination and management. The uptake of building information modelling and online communication is already improving information sharing, efficiency and cost control. Moving more of the construction process to the digital factory can increase the benefits from digital fabrication and innovative fabricators, a paradigm shift only now glimpsed over the near horizon.